the Harrison Connection

When you mention President Bush in conversation, you probably have to clarify who you are talking about, right? Well, this has happened four times in the history of our Constitutional Republic:

  1. President Adams (Father #2 & Son #6)

  2. President Harrison (Grandfather #9 & Grandson #23)

  3. President Roosevelt (#26 & #32, distantly related)

  4. President Bush (Father #41 & Son #43)

The star of this story, President Harrison #23, requires the same clarification. The strong similarities between President Trump and President Harrison #23 can tell us a great deal about what is likely to occur in the next several years.

Rejuvenated Republicanism.

Like many of our former presidents, President Harrison #23 was a lawyer. He had a reputation as a brilliant lawyer. Interestingly enough, President Harrison #23 was one of 7 candidates in the Republican Primaries of 1888. Depending on how you count, President Trump was one of about 15 republicans in the 2016 primaries.

Like President Trump, President Harrison #23 was a populist Republican and not a member of the establishment Republican base. At that time, the Republicans were not as powerful as the Democrats. President Harrison #23 was an unlikely middle of the road candidate to run against the incumbent, President Grover Cleveland. Rejuvenated Republicanism, his campaign slogan, isn't as catchy as Make America Great Again but it energized the electorate just enough to win.

My Friend, The Electoral College.

Both President Trump and President Harrison #23 won the electoral college without winning the popular vote. This has only happened five times. President Harrison won the Electoral College 233 to 168 and received approximately 90,000 fewer votes than President Grover Cleveland. The swing states in 1888 were New York, Glover Cleveland's home state, and Indiana, President Harrison #23's home state. This is interesting because these are also the home states of President Trump and Vice-President Pence. President Trump won the Electoral College 304 to 234 and lost the popular vote by approximately 2.9 Million votes. It is sad President Trump continues to perpetuate the falsehood that voter fraud contributed to this result. The more you say 2+2=5, doesn't make it any truer.

Protectionist.

Like President Trump, President Harrison #23 was also a protectionist. He worked to expand and modernize the United States Navy. The McKinley Tariff of 1890, which he executed, imposed high tariffs on imports in an effort to protect American corporations. This same sort of tax has been suggested by the White House as a way to pay for Trump's border wall. President Harrison's imposition of the high import tariff caused an increase in prices and some historians believe this economic policy may have contributed to the economic depression devastated America years later. I, like many, believe that imposing a 20% border tax will not do any good for average working class Americans and has serious potential to hamstring our consumer based economy.

Immigration.

Like President Trump, President Harrison #23 was concerned with the country's immigration policy. He addressed this issue by working with Congress to establish the "Bureau of Immigration" in 1891 and opening Ellis Island in January 1892. During his inaugural address he expressed his views on the subject:

Our naturalization laws should be so amended as to make the inquiry into the character and good disposition of persons applying for citizenship more careful and searching. Our existing laws have been in their administration an unimpressive and often an unintelligible form. We accept the man as a citizen without any knowledge of his fitness, and he assumes the duties of citizenship without any knowledge as to what they are. The privileges of American citizenship are so great and its duties so grave that we may well insist upon a good knowledge by him of our institutions. We should not cease to be hospitable to immigration, but we should cease to be careless as to the character of it. There are men of all races, even the best, whose coming is necessarily a burden upon our public revenues or a threat to social order. These should be identified and excluded.

Ellis Island was arguably one of the biggest net positives for our country because more than 12 million immigrants were thoroughly screened before gaining entry. We should have a rigorous screening process, and there is virtue in measuring twice and cutting once. Our immigration laws should be written and executed in accordance with the American values of acceptance and compassion and not unbridled animus.

Negotiator.

Like President Trump, President Harrison #23 was a seasoned negotiator. President Harrison convened the first Pan-American Conference, obtained an American protectorate over the Samoan Islands with Germany and Great Britain and negotiated reciprocal trade agreements with foreign countries. He also signed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which limits corporate power by outlawing monopolistic business practices. Even though this fair competition enforcement mechanism was enacted during his presidency, the law was not vigorously prosecuted until President Roosevelt #26.

Freed From Prison.

Towards the end of his term, President Harrison #23’s wife, Caroline, became ill and died of tuberculosis. He became understandably distracted. Under the circumstances Grover Cleveland, his opponent, graciously agreed to not campaign against him. Even without an official campaign, President Cleveland won the election. There is no doubt the effects of high tariffs contributed to his loss. However, I'm not certain he wanted to be reelected. After he lost the election, he is believed to have told his family that he felt like he had been freed from prison.

Peaceful Dissent is Patriotic.

For better or worse, the tide of globalization is turning, I'm confident the checks & balances of our government will help ensure stability. It's possible that the embarrassment of White House leaks and incompetence just might change the course of action. We must stand up and call a spade, a spade, and remember that peaceful dissent is patriotic. Rioting and stifling free speech with violence on the other hand is despicable behavior.

If the last two weeks are any indication of how President Trump intends to govern, it's pretty clear. He's going 0-60 mph in 1 second flat towards satisfying every campaign promise, even the ones thought to be merely figurative. Now that we know he was literal, we need to hold on because it's going to be a bumpy ride up to 30,000 feet.

The Connection.

My nostalgia for the Adirondacks helped spark the idea for the connection between Harrison and Trump was made, in part, by . One Summer while going to Eastman School of Music, I had an amazing internship experience at View Arts in Old Forge, NY. While working there I had the privilege of staying at President Harrison #23’s vacation house in the Adirondacks.

 President Harrison's Lakehouse from 2nd Lake, Photo Credit: David W. Weygandt

President Harrison's Lakehouse from 2nd Lake, Photo Credit: David W. Weygandt

Well, that’s not completely accurate – I stayed in the slave quarters, which you can barely see to the left of this photo. It was hard to complain when you get to experience this view, day in and day out for free:

 2nd Lake, Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Adirondacks, Photo Credit: David W. Weygandt

2nd Lake, Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Adirondacks, Photo Credit: David W. Weygandt